Lee Ritchie’s review published on Letterboxd:
There are few examples of cinematic perfection. Work that bleeds the very essence of film in all its inherit glory. Using the basic slate of technique and amplifying it to the tippy top of mountain drops. Creating an emotionally enthralling narrative with film; through music, editing, cinematography, acting, writing, lighting and pace. There are few examples of movies that can reach this height; but Harakiri is one of them.
To discuss the plot beyond a basic synopsis would do a great deal of harm to the movie, as its best experienced on a clean slate - as is with most movies. I suppose I can't really say if it is or isn't, but as someone who only just found out about the movie through this wonderful site without knowing all that much about it other than it's high regard as a masterpiece; it was certainly fantastic to just witness it in its purity. To just feel the movie as it happened, on its high pedestal and next to no prior knowledge of the events about to unfold and feel the raw life breathing through it.
It's something that only the finest movies can do; evoke a strong sense of raw emotion. For the basic synposis; Harakiri takes place between 1619 and 1630 in the Edo period. It follows Hanshirō Tsugumo (Tatsuya Nakadai), a rōnin or warrior without a lord, who wishes to perform seppuku in an honourable place, in the home of feudal lord Saitō Kageyu's (Rentarō Mikuni) home. Before this Hanshirō will recount a series of events which I shall not discuss. It's a basic premise that manages to cover a wide range of themes including the most powerful being death and honour.
The simplicity of the narrative allows for the more substantial elements of raw human emotion, performed astoundingly by Tatsuya Nakadai's powerful performance as the central character. It's a slow burner, slowly building up the suspense to the perfect finale. On a technical level director Masaki Kobayashi has full control through every scene. The camera, lighting and editing elements are used to evoke and manipulate the viewer's emotions. It captures the Edo period in crisp black and white, so graceful in its execution while actually being quite disrespectful of the samurai code of honour.
Harakiri is a true masterpiece, and without letterboxd I sincerely doubt I would have ever been able to witness its exponential beauty. For that I am thankful, thank you Masaki Kobayashi for this jidaigeki masterpiece, and thank you letterboxd community for bringing it to light.